Manufacturing Execution Textile verticals – Supplementing Tier 1 ERP Systems

Manufacturing Execution Textile verticals – Supplementing Tier 1 ERP Systems

Bob Beecy CFPIM, CIRM, C.P.M.


Tier 1 ERP suppliers, herein defined as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, have
been extremely successful in promoting and selling their packages as the
preferred solution across all business and manufacturing spectrums. The
strategy of selling to the top levels of management has been instrumental in
their adoption, but has also been a source of pain for a many in these
organizations because the tools that upper management sees as critical to
running the business do not always translate well onto the shop floor.

This is especially true in textile, apparel and rolled products industries
(carpet, nonwovens, geo-textiles, building products, etc). The reasons for
this are numerous and will be detailed in this paper, but stem mainly from
the fact that apparel and rolled products do not fit comfortably into either
discrete or process methodologies. In fact, if you attempt to categorize the
subject industries into APICS (The Association for Operations Management)
defined manufacturing schemes, they fall somewhere between process and
repetitive, exhibiting attributes of both and aspects that fit neither. Thus,
attempting to shoehorn apparel and rolled products into discrete systems has
normally shown limited success and created both frustration and expense on
the part of organizations that have tried.

The balance of this paper will be spent defining the unique attributes of
rolled products, by business discipline, and then recommending a strategy
for melding industry specific solutions with an entrenched or a planned ERP solution.

Textile, Apparel and Rolled Products Challenges:

The following unique aspects of the subject industries make them difficult to
ascribe into non-industry related solutions:

Core Data and Master Files-.
  • The need for multiple key/segment part numbers enabled by item category that are user defined to fully describe product attributes. .
  • Item keys defined as primary, i.e., needing to be defined for each item, or secondary, i.e., separately defined and attached as required (color, size, backing, etc.) .
  • Recipes which can be described by U/M, pick-up percent, or by predefined batch size which can be used for both costing and processing.
  • Recipes can be used for formulas, including dyes and mixes, findings and put-up/packaging..
  • Sizing matrices that allow double sizes (e.g., 34 X 32) or allow size and color (e.g., XL and blue) .
  • Multiple alternate units of measure per item type; e.g., linear yards, square yards per linear yard and weight per linear yard for finished goods; linear yards, weight per linear yard and picks or revolutions per linear yard for greige goods, etc. .
  • Multiple levels of quality defined with standard discounts from first quality. No need to change or revise the SKU. .
  • Table driven standard U/M conversions and currency conversions; supporting domestic and international operations. .
  • Multiple language capability (including Arabic and Chinese) defined by user profile..
  • System can be defined as single entity (one division) or as multiple entities (multiple divisions) with definable barriers between the levels.

Order Fulfillment and Commercial Transactions-.
  • Multiple order lines per customer order with multiple deliveries per line .
  • Quality level defined by order line with separate price and cost.
  • “To Produce” orders that reserve materials and capacity which automatically decrement when assortments are created.
  • Customer cross reference files with ability to create exclusives per customer. .
  • Price list availability with standard or specific discounts from list.
  • EDI input to create releases from “To Produce” orders or to create new orders for existing products.
  • A Restrictions file that allows for automated, attribute based customer allocations. 
  • Management of collections.

Planning and Scheduling-.

  • The ability to accurately explode and accumulate requirements despitethe fact that materials can be located at multiple levels of the process flow or bill of material..
  • Planned replenishment orders can be automatically converted into production orders, pending planner confirmation. .
  • Requirements planning works with make to stock, make to order, finish to order and engineer to order items. .
  • Requirements can be netted by lot/merge in order to support shade and quality consistency within production orders..
  • Scheduling system utilizes product compatibility for run sequencing to minimize machine set-ups and maximize product quality. .
  • The ability to schedule secondary resources to avoid overloading of  carriers, set-up crews, A-frames, etc..
  • Gantt chart displays of scheduled loads, color coded for conflicts, late delivery and incompatibility

Inventory and Warehousing-

  • Inventory stored, displayed and transacted by warehouse, lot, roll, container, and location. .
  • Warehouse management system that will optimize storage and retrieval based on activity and movement efficiency. .
  • Near limitless user specified technical data storage per item (SKU), element (roll), container (box or pallet) and location. .
  • Bar code and RFID capable .
  • Warehouse availability screen creates a full-explosion summary of an item that can be a time-phased or item total display..
  • Over issue functionality allows for visibility of materials that have been issued to manufacturing that are still available for use. .
  • Ability to value inventories at standard cost or multiple variations of  actual cost (LIFO, FIFO, Average, Weighted Average, etc.).

Product Specs and Costing-
  • Product definition done with robust process flows, seamlessly combining bills and routings into a single entity, or with separate bills and routings as required to meet customer needs. .
  • Ability to define weave patterns, including yarns, consumptions and least cost centering of patterns. .
  • Ability to define print designs, including rotary screen inventory and amortization, and to link to paste formulas for costing by quantity and color way. .
  • Dyes and chemicals assigned to process flows individually or by recipe with automatic recalculation for runs and batches. .
  • Unlimited collection and consumption of cost elements (indirect materials, labor and overhead) via user defined methodologies. .
  • Management of waste, by-products (sellable waste), elongation and contraction as separate entities and to factor into both cost and processing outputs. .
  • Management of multiple passes on processing equipment, including correct assignment of processing costs.

Production Management-

  • User defined production order explosion from known input quantity to expected outputs, or from desired output back to required inputs. .
  • Production orders allow production of multiple SKU’s per order; especially important for size and/or color matrices. .
  • Ability to predefine process flow (routings) or to select at time of  production order entry from set of standard flows/routings. .
  • Ability to split production orders into batches, immediately, or at any step within the routing. .
  • Ability to define, track and control outside commission processing steps within an existing routing, including both vendor identification and processing cost..
  • Management of slitting operations within the process steps of a production order with accurate tracking of yields..
  • Ability to collect and identify cost variances by operation and by period, as well as from realized yields. .
  • Ability to backflush by production into stock or by quantity processed at key process steps; supports lean production via minimal reporting requirements. .
  • Management of defect mapping on inspected fabric and cut optimization for maximizing first quality yield.

Recommended MES Architecture:

To gain the maximum benefit from an MES in the subject
industries, the recommended architecture would have the Tier 1 ERP system
handle the high level corporate functions of general ledger, accounts
payable, accounts receivable, human relations, customer relations
management, government reporting and investor relations. Thus, a vertical solution
would handle product masters and specs, order fulfillment, planning and
scheduling, production, inventory, warehousing and logistics. Purchasing
could be affected in either system, but if it were to be managed by the Tier 1
system, interfaces would need to be written to bring purchase commitments
back into the vertical to allow for accurate planning of purchased materials.
The application of the dedicated  tools, for sequencing and scheduling,
shop floor reporting, warehouse management and capacity management is
also strongly advocated to receive the full benefit of the MES system.

While this may be the optimal division of responsibilities, it may not be the
most politically expedient architecture. Since Tier 1 systems represent a
sizable investment for a firm, choosing not to use a significant portion of the
system may not sit well with the person or persons responsible for signing
the checks. If this is the case, and the product complexity is not
overwhelming, it may be best to leave the commercial aspects of the
business in the Tier 1 package and use the MES to handle product specs and
costing, planning and scheduling and production. Under this scenario, order
fulfillment, warehousing, shipping and logistics would be retained by the
Tier 1 solution. Demand and supply (inventory and purchase commitments)
would be passed back and forth between the two systems to enable revenue
generating activities in the Tier 1 and planning, production and costing in the
MES. This will make it more challenging for the IT group in that additional
interfaces will be required to allow the systems to share the necessary data
elements. Honesty and diligence, on the part of all participants, will be
necessary to make sure the business is given the best opportunity for
success. If the Tier 1 system will not support the data requirements for
customer transactions, or will not provide for the accurate handling or
description of stocked goods, then politics should give way to practicality
and the MES should be employed to oversee these functions. This is where
outside implementation help (i.e., consulting) can play a major role to bring
common sense to a volatile environment.

If neither of the suggestions given above is looked upon as being viable by
the organization in question, there are still tools within a vertical MES that can be
applied in order to assist those charged with manufacturing and production.
Certainly, These tools should be considered for application to provide the shop floor with tools to communicate, sequence,
schedule and reserve capacity. Warehouse management can be used to
assist in the efficient stocking and handling of raw materials and finished
goods. Product specs and process flows may also be applied in order to
accurately cost products and adequately explode requirements. Finally,
production orders may be utilized in order to be able to gather
manufacturing variances and value work-in-process inventories. The ease of
moving files in and out of the industry dedicated MES provides a continuum of possible


Because Tier 1 solutions represent the most prevalent ERP selections in
today’s marketplace, it doesn’t mean they represent the best solutions for all
disciplines in these same companies. If the firms are taking on the unique
and difficult attributes of textile, apparel and rolled products, they should
consider utilizing an industry specific MES to assist manufacturing and logistics; so that the persons that are involved the transformation that creates value for the
customer are given the tools to optimize that process.